Happy 75th Birthday PB

On February 13th 1938 Perry Beeches Secondary School opened its doors. As a school we are celebrating our 75th birthday. Four of our students were lucky enough to have the opportunity of interviewing a resident at Homelands in Beeches Road who started here on the day it opened. The students were shocked to find there was no homework in those days and no school uniform. Doreen reinforced the importance of good manners in school and the respect she had for her teachers. A continued ethos of the school 75 years later. Recent requests in the Great Barr Observer have enabled us to gather memorabilia of students times here at school.

+The start of Perry Beeches

The huts shown to the right of this WWII photo were ‘temporary’. They were separate from the main school. We had to walk over to the main halls for school dinners – Sago pudding etc. We had evening play-school with ‘dripping’ sandwiches and played ‘pirates’ in the gyms while our parents worked evening shifts for war work. They started to issue milk in small bottles and we had ‘milk monitors’.

The school as it was when I was there, all built of wood. We had halls with
curved roofs and fully equipped gyms in which we could climb ropes to
the roof 40ft above. Air raid shelters from which I saw a German ME110
as we were rushed in during an alert. We had a big sports field and woods
with frog spawn and tadpoles. We had a Quarry full of water behind
the school and played on the ice in the winter.


‘Yes I remember those days I used to take the shells around the class rooms & collect the money, my name is Brian Harding & attended Beeches Rd School from 1939 till1944 Mr Warterton was the headmaster & he was an absolute bully, he would be locked up in this day & age for the way he treated the kids. Do you remember Mr Roberts who seemed to smoke 100 woodbines a day!!’


‘We used to get enormous white enamel jugs of cocoa (i was only small then), always tasted powdery’.

‘Best thing I remember about the trip to Kingstanding baths was the hot Bovril, or was it Oxo, that you could buy before you returned to School. Best thing I remember about School Dinners was going up for seconds, loads of fat off the cold ham that nobody else wanted, lashings of salad cream and boiled spuds, no wonder I had, and still do, a weight problem!’

Amazing how these memories stay with us……
The teacher announced to the class that i was not the type he wanted in his class because I’d come 33rd out of 34.
(Sure did a lot for ones self-esteem and confidence which at 12 I lacked)

Seeing this school appear in the papers again – ‘can anyone remember during WW2 in the afternoons you bought a seashell for two pence which admitted you to evening Playschool (parents on war work) and you got a big ‘dripping’ sandwich and a large mug of tea.
Then you played a chasing game called Pirates in a very well equipped Gym, wall bars, and ropes up to the ceiling’

‘As new boys to the school in Assembly he threatened anyone not paying attention would get the pump. My mate was wondering what the pump was and didn’t pay attention so he had to bend over and got hit 6 times with a rubber running pump. It looked very painful.  Also a name Pathfinders Club vaguely comes to mind’

* All crisps were plain; the only choice we had was whether to put the salt on or not.
* Condiments consisted of salt, pepper, vinegar and brown sauce if we were lucky.
* Soft drinks were called pop.
* Coke was something that we mixed with coal to make it last longer.
* A Chinese chippy was a foreign carpenter.
* Rice was a milk pudding, and never, ever part of our dinner.
* A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.
* A Pizza Hut was an Italian shed.
* A microwave was something out of a science fiction movie.
* Brown bread was something only poor people ate.
* Oil was for lubricating your bike not for cooking, fat was for cooking
* Bread and jam was a treat.
* Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves, not bags.
* The tea cosy was the forerunner of all the energy saving devices that we hear so much about today.
* Tea had only one colour, black. Green tea was not British.
* Coffee was only drunk when we had no tea….. and then it was Camp, and came in a bottle.
* Cubed sugar was regarded as posh.
* Figs and dates appeared every Christmas, but no one ever ate them.
* Sweets and confectionery were called toffees.
* Coconuts only appeared when the fair came to town.
* Black puddings were mined in Bolton Lancashire.
* Jellied eels were peculiar to Londoners.
* Salad cream was a dressing for salads, mayonnaise did not exist
* Hors d’oeuvre was a spelling mistake.
* The starter was our main meal.
* Soup was a main meal.
* The menu consisted of what we were given, and was set in stone.
* Only Heinz made beans, any others were impostors.
* Leftovers went in the dog.
* Special food for dogs and cats was unheard of.
* Sauce was either brown or red.
* Fish was only eaten on Fridays.
* Fish didn’t have fingers in those days.
* Eating raw fish was called poverty, not sushi.
* Ready meals only came from the fish and chip shop.
* For the best taste fish and chips had to be eaten out of old newspapers.
* Frozen food was called ice cream.
* Nothing ever went off in the fridge because we never had one.
* Ice cream only came in one colour and one flavour.
* None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.
* Jelly and blancmange was only eaten at parties.
* If we said that we were on a diet, we simply got less.
* Healthy food consisted of anything edible.
* Healthy food had to have the ability to stick to your ribs.
* Calories were mentioned but they had nothing at all to do with food.
* The only criteria concerning the food that we ate were … did we like it and could we afford it.
* People who didn’t peel potatoes were regarded as lazy so and so’s.
* Indian restaurants were only found in India .
* A seven course meal had to last a week.
* Brunch was not a meal.
* Cheese only came in a hard lump.
* If we had eaten bacon lettuce and tomato in the same sandwich we would have been certified
* A bun was a small cake back then.
* A tart was a fruit filled pastry, not a lady of horizontal pleasure.
* The word” Barbie” was not associated with anything to do with food.
* Eating outside was called a picnic.
* Cooking outside was called camping.
* Seaweed was not a recognised food.
* Offal was only eaten when we could afford it.
* Eggs only came fried or boiled.
* Hot cross buns were only eaten at Easter time.
* Pancakes were only eaten on Pancake Tuesday – in fact in those days it was compulsory.
* “Kebab” was not even a word never mind a food.
* Hot dogs were a type of sausage that only the Americans ate.
* Cornflakes had arrived from America but it was obvious that they would never catch on.
* The phrase “boil in the bag” would have been beyond our realms of comprehension.
* The idea of “oven chips” would not have made any sense at all to us.
* The world had not yet benefited from weird and wonderful things
like Pot Noodles, Instant Mash and Pop Tarts.
* We bought milk and cream at the same time in the same bottle.
* Sugar enjoyed a good press in those days, and was regarded as being white gold.
* Lettuce and tomatoes in winter were just a rumour.
* Most soft fruits were seasonal except perhaps at Christmas.
* Prunes were medicinal.
* Surprisingly muesli was readily available in those days, it was called cattle feed.
* Turkeys were definitely seasonal.
* Pineapples came in chunks in a tin; we had only ever seen a picture of a real one.
* We didn’t eat Croissants in those days because we couldn’t pronounce them,
we couldn’t spell them and we didn’t know what they were.
* We thought that Baguettes were a serious problem the French needed to deal with.
* Garlic was used to ward off vampires, but never used to flavour bread.

School packed lunches included the following:

Cold lamb and lettuce sandwich

Mixed Vegetable salad

Peanut butter sandwiches

Marmalade sandwiches

Cream of Celery Soup

Jelly sandwich

Chocolate Cake


Coconut slice





On February 13th we have 25 residents coming for an old fashioned lunch – our BBC School reporters will be asking questions and taking photographs of this very special day of the school’s history.


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